As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, you can enjoy some excellent microbrewed beers in Slovakia (I hear there are now 27 microbreweries in the country). Let’s take a look at another four, this time in the eastern part of the country.

Pivovar Golem (Golem Brewery), Košice

I visited the Golem Brewery in Košice two years ago and was a little put off by a strange yeasty brew. Since then, the brewers at this microbrew pride of my hometown cleaned up their recipe. The flagship 11.5° Golem* remains lemon-yellow and cloudy, but the flavor got smoother and more balanced. So much so, in fact, that the beer lost a little bit of its character. No matter: if you take shelter from the hot afternoon sun in the cool, old-Prague-themed brew pub that sits in the shadow of the Košice’s oldest building, the late 13th-century Dominican Church, the light brew will quench your parched throat in a memorable, unfiltered way.

East Slovak microbrews

Old Prague in old Košice’s The tower of 11.5° Golem lager at Golem Brewery bar/restaurant.

If you go

  • Location: Dominikánske námestie 15, Košice, a block and a half off Main Street
  • Prices: 0.3 l / 0.4 l / 0.5 l 11.5° Golem lager – €1.00 ($1.35) / €1.20 ($1.60) / €1.35 ($1.80); 0.3 l /0.4 l/ 0.5 l 11.5° dark Golem lager – €1.10 ($1.50) / €1.30 ($1.75) / €1.45 ($1.95)
  • Hours: 11:00 am–11:00 pm Monday to Thursday, 11:00 am–1:00 am Friday, 5:00 pm–1:00 am Saturday, 6:00 pm–10:00 pm Sunday

Minipivovar Egidius (Egidius Minibrewery), Poprad

The Egidius Minibrewery provides a nice conclusion to the short tour of tiny downtown Poprad. The interior may be a tad confusing for a microbrew fan, what with the slick black-and-white decor better suited for a cocktail bar and the Euro dancepop blasting from the stereo. But the beer offsets the nightclub-modern well.

On both my visits, a month apart, different brews were available. You can’t order them all but cheerful staff gladly provide samples. The lighter brews lean toward the sour side, the dark ones toward the sweeter. The light 10° was refreshing, with a distinct aftertaste of unfiltered beers. I dubbed the dark, porter-y 11° ‘a liquid dessert’. The semi-dark 12° wavered between the hoppier notes and the strong malty undercurrent. The dark 12° reminded me of coffee and Kofola, the Slovak response to cola. Also maltier was the light 13°, a balanced, dark-hued lager with a citrusy tang—my favorite of the lot. Skip the raspberry radler, it has nothing to do with beer.

East Slovak microbrews

Left: “May God provide luck” and tasty microbrews at the Egidius Microbrewery in Poprad. Middle: Not a microbrew, but a classic. Zlatý Bažant, now owned by Heineken, at a downtown Portland restaurant. Right: A local Kamzík beer on the train to Poprad.

If you go

  • Location: Námestie sv. Egídia 10, a block and a half off Main Street
  • Prices: vary depending on what’s on tap but generally stay under $2.50 for 0.5 l
  • Hours: 11:00 am–11:00 pm Monday to Thursday, 11:00 am–1:00 am Friday and Saturday, 11:00 am–9:00 pm Sunday

Minipivovar Buchvald (Buchvald Minibrewery), Poráč Valley

My relatives in my father’s ancestral village Poráč didn’t believe me when I told them that I had come to the nearby Poráčska dolina (Poráčska Valley) just for the Buchvald beer. The brewery is adjacent to the only restaurant in this remote and beautiful valley; the restaurant belongs to the Poráč Park resort. When I was little, my family would visit the valley for daytrips, now I was back for what shall henceforth be known as the beergrimage.

During the weekday lunch hour, I was the only customer for a long time. I chatted with the waiter/bartender turned out to be the grandson of my late grandparents’ old neighbor in Spišská Nová Ves; we used to play together with his sister and my cousins during the long summers I spent there. this is the youngest brewery in the country: it served its first half-liter on Children’s Day, June 1, 2013. Only one brew is on tap, a light 12° lager, and it is the best twelve-degree lager I had in Slovakia. With the exception of special events, this is the only place in the world you can drink it, so it made my beergrimage worth every minute. Lagered for 12 weeks, it is refreshing and it has the right amount of bite and strength. What’s more, my father’s cousin said it is the only beer that doesn’t give her headaches. Enjoyed on the terrace surrounded by woods and with a pair of sheep bleating nearby, it is the definition of a Slovak summer.

East Slovak microbrews

The lager with a real head, the forest with real wolves, the sheep whose bleating sounds like human cries—what’s not to love?

If you go

  • Location: Poráč Park resort, Poráčska dolina, with only one road in and out. By bus, it’s 45 minutes from Spišská Nová Ves to Poráč, then a 30-minute walk from the terminus to Poráč Park. By car, it’s a half-hour drive from Spišská Nová Ves. Like I said, a beergrimage.
  • Prices: 0.3 l / 0.5 l 12° lager – €0.90 ($1.20) / €1.50 ($2)
  • Hours: 8:00 am–8:00 pm Monday to Sunday, though hours may vary depending on the season and traffic

Pivovar Kaltenecker (Kaltenecker Brewery)

I never made it all the way to Rožňava, a small town 68 kilometers (42 miles) from Košice where the Kaltenecker Brewery is located. But their brews are available in Bratislava, Košice, and I’m guessing many other towns around the country; since 1997 Kaltenecker has been slowly making a name in producing excellent, non-traditional beers, a tradition fortified in 2012 with expanded production capacity.

When I finally made it to Red Nose Pub, a beer-lover’s paradise off my hometown’s famous Main Street, the 17° Chopper Black IPA was the new special. And it is just that, dare I say the best non-lager beer I sampled in all of Slovakia. I also dare say that this beer would slay the entire dark IPA competition in the American microbrew market! I tingle just remembering its smooth, creamy, hoppy goodness that made me feel the world is alright. Unfortunately, the price of success is steep: Chopper Black IPA only stayed on the taplist for a couple of weeks. I thought of the 15° Chopper IPA that succeeded it like its little brother.

East Slovak microbrews

A Kaltenecker black IPA on a dark patio is what’s for dinner at Red Nose Pub in downtown Košice.

If you go

  • Location: Red Nose Pub is at Zbrojničná 2, just off Main Street
  • Prices: 0.4 l 17° Chopper Black IPA was €1.90 ($2.55); at least 10 microbrews from Slovakia and the Czech Republic are on tap every day, with varying, reasonable prices
  • Hours: 4:00 pm–2:00 am Monday to Sunday

Notes

* In Central Europe, the degrees Plato measurement is used in brewing to indicate the strength of beer by sucrose content. Ten-degree beers have ABV in the 4% range, 12° in the 5% range.

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